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June 2011

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Research for Development
Rethinking African Governance and Development

“This article draws together the main strands of argument being developed by the Africa Power and Politics Programme (APPP), as reflected in this IDS Bulletin special issue. The central question is what kinds of governance arrangements work better to support the provision of the public goods that are essential to sustained and inclusive development in Africa. Evidence at local, sectoral and national levels is pointing to the overall conclusion that what works is often a ‘practical hybrid’, combining authoritative coordination with local problem-solving and constructive borrowing from local cultural repertoires. Consistent with the general idea of ‘going with the grain’, we find that the most likely source of the necessary vertical discipline is a developmental form of neo-patrimonialism, not ‘good governance’, as currently conceived. Similarly, local collective action to address bottlenecks in public goods provision is seldom enhanced by standard donor and NGO approaches to citizen or client empowerment.” READ MORE

A Peaceful Face of the Arab Spring: Morocco

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

Moroccan citizens on the street in Rabat after the King's speech on constitutional reform. Just over a week ago I had the privilege of witnessing the Arab Spring unfolding - in a peaceful, and even joyful manner. On Friday, June 17, I joined several hundreds of Moroccans outside the Parliament building in Rabat, where they celebrated the reforms King Mohammed IV had announced that evening. In his speech to the nation, Mohammed IV spoke about establishing a new constitution that focuses on the rule of law and strong democratic institutions. The changes include the establishment of a democratic and independent executive branch of government, the recognition of the Amazigh language as official language alongside Arabic, the strengthening of the legislative branch, establishing an enabling environment for Parliamentary opposition, strengthening the autonomy of the judiciary, and strengthening good governance through, among other mechanisms, the establishment of an independent agency for the prevention and fight against corruption.

Ties that Bind: Studying Social Networks in Timor-Leste

Pamela Dale's picture

Social networks have been a hot topic in the past year, not least because of the buzz around the Oscar-winning film about the founding of Facebook. Even in countries with relatively low internet connectivity, use of social networking sites is on the rise – just ask Timor-Leste’s President José Ramos Horta and his 378 Facebook friends. But even before the internet empowered us to connect and communicate at the speed of a whim, we have all lived fully immersed in social networks. Social networks are the links between family and friends, classmates and teammates, coworkers and colleagues, enemies and ‘frenemies’. They are the relationships – around 150 meaningful ones, according to Dunbar’s number – that feed and bound our choices and actions, provide us with emotional sustenance and sounding boards, and provide structure to our lives. But beyond their intrinsic value, what do these connections mean – for individuals, for communities, and for development?

Quote of the Week: Ahmet Davutoglu

Sina Odugbemi's picture

 "If your foreign policy, however sophisticated it might be, doesn’t have a ground in public opinion, then that foreign policy is not sustainable."


-- Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.  As quoted in International Herald Tribune, Erudite candidate takes populist route, by Anthony Shadid, Saturday-Sunday, June 11-12, 2011.

Will Someone Find and Control the Master Switch of the Internet?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

A recent  (2010) book by Tim Wu titled The Master Switch: the Rise and Fall of Information Empires is a sweeping, industrial history of the succession of new media technologies that rose to prominence in America in the 20th century: radio, the telephone, television, film and, of course, the Internet. It is an American story with global ramifications because of the powerful global influence of American information empires.

Wu's story is both arresting and depressing.

Can Virtual Civil Societies Build Citizen Competence?

Sabina Panth's picture

The image of civil society as non government entities with concrete institutions, with office space, meeting halls and formal titles, is gradually shifting in this virtual age of online activism and social media.  Instead, these formal institutions are diffusing into loose networks, where, in place of human resources, software programs are doing much of the work.  In the words of journalist Charlie Beckett, these emerging entities are the “Virtual Civil Societies.” 

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

TrustLaw
Anti-Corruption Views- World Bank, UN make ‘how to’ asset recovery guide

"How do you stop corrupt regimes from stashing their money in your jurisdiction? That is the question a joint initiative by the World Bank and United Nations answers in a recent report.

The Barriers to Asset Recovery report, by the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR), gives policymakers a ‘how to’ guide on implementing laws and mechanisms needed to freeze and repatriate stolen assets." READ MORE

Yes, The Revolution Will Be Televised. Now What?

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

In a media landscape saturated with images of tweeting revolutionaries and blogging dissidents, it's easier than ever to assume a causal relationship between the spread of technology and political revolution. But take a closer look, and the issue begins to look a lot more complex.

An informative and timely new essay by Marc Lynch, an associate professor at George Washington University and prolific commentator on Arab media and political issues, deftly sums up the main arguments, contradictions and knowledge gaps surrounding the impact of information and communication technologies (ICT) on the phenomena collectively referred to as "the Arab Spring." Entitled "After Egypt: The Limits and Promise of Online Challenges to the Authoritarian Arab State," (subscription may be required), the piece implicitly argues for abandoning the usual "optimist/pessimist" trope that plagues such discussions, favoring instead a more nuanced and complex perspective on the impact of ICT in authoritarian states. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, I agree - see this previous post.)

Forecasting Failure?

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

A perennially relevant question is making the rounds again in the wake of the Arab Spring: Why can't anyone predict revolutions? (See Sina's "quote of the week," for example.) The issue is again raised in this piece by Foreign Policy managing editor Blake Hounshell, in conjunction with Foreign Policy's seventh annual publication of its Failed States Index (FSI).

The article seems geared toward explaining why the FSI didn't "predict" the Arab Spring, and it discusses the fact that indices are generally better at providing snapshots rather than acting as crystal balls. It also notes that while the FSI has captured some elements of political destabilization in the Middle East, it has missed others. Experts quoted in the article note that revolutions may be inherently difficult to predict, due to the so-called "demonstration effect" (whereby revolutions, aided by satellite television and other advances in communication technology, allegedly spread by contagion) and other factors.

Opening Channels for Citizens to Directly Interact with the Government

Sabina Panth's picture

I wonder how many of us, living or working in Washington DC, know about 311.  No, I’m not talking about the Three-Eleven rock band, but rather the phone-based 311 system that many cities in US, including DC, have opened up for citizens to submit inquiries or log complaints related to public services.  There is also an “evolved” version of 311, called Open311, which allows the public to submit and track the progress of their reports through use of modern technologies like mobile-phones or computers. In return, the government is able to capture accurate details of the inquirer’s input, act on those details and then notify the public on the actions taken.  Marc Angelo Irlandez, who heads Open311, relates the system with Customer Relations Management (CRM) information database that sales businesses use to store information on their regular and potential customers to tailor products and services accordingly. 

Post-Conflict Justice and ICT

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

We've discussed here and in related papers (such as Towards a New Model and The Missing Link) the role that media and communication (including all forms of information and communication technologies, or ICT) can play in pre-, mid- and post-conflict situations. Too often, donors think of media and communication as an adjunct to their main reconstruction and peacebuilding work, something with which to publicize their activities. I've advocated strongly in the past for assigning a more significant role to the field of media and communication in conflict, urging donors to consider it as a substantive, technical area that needs to be systematically incorporated into donor plannning rather than treated as an offshoot of public relations.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

NDI
The NGO Corruption Fighters' Resource Book

"Corruption is a very big problem in many nations of the world-some would assert that it is becoming more extensive, and more areas of development activity are being affected.  Corruption is also becoming, de facto, an attack on governance as more and more of the rules under which nations are governed are breached with impunity.  Citizen engagement is very important in fighting corruption, and there are particular advantages in getting NGOs more involved in the fight. NGOs have limitations, but also great potential strengths, and these can be better realized through better project management."  READ MORE

The Unfinished Global Revolution: Book Review

Caroline Jaine's picture

When I first met Mark Malloch-Brown several years ago, he was a newly ennobled peer and part of the Gordon Brown lead British Government, serving as a Foreign Minister. Wearing the ermine of a Lord together with his Make Poverty History wrist-band, Malloch-Brown was a figure of both rebellion and conformity.  Given his outspoken stance on the war in Iraq and his uneasy relationship with America’s neo-cons, I wondered then whether he would be forced to compromise on his principles.

His latest offering to the world is certainly no compromise.  In The Unfinished Global Revolution, as the title suggests is all to aware that it is written at a time of immense change, less at the cusp of revolution – more in the thick of it.

This is a book about Malloch-Brown’s personal journey, and whilst the writer candidly shares remarkable anecdotes, he also offers unique insight into some of the world’s most challenging conflicts and commentary from inside both government and international organisations.  Ultimately, however, true to character, this reads as a call to action.  As he writes: We need to get on with it!

The Critical Publics of the International Investigator

Sina Odugbemi's picture

International investigators are the anti-corruption sleuths who work in many international institutions. Their job is to investigate corrupt practices within and around the projects funded by their institutions that are being implemented in different parts of the world. They have to be hard, tough and clever. Because of that they may frighten the people who know about what they do and might come under their gaze. But can they be successful as lone rangers? Do they need friendly, collaborative publics? It is easy to think that they don't; but it turns out that if they really want to be effective there are publics that they need to have with them one way or another.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Space for Transparency
Mobilising to Make Aid Transparent

"How much money are donors giving to Liberia, Peru and Sri Lanka?

It sounds like a simple question and one that should have a quick answer – but it does not.

Donors have pledged in international agreements to provide such information by making their aid more open and effective, but most have failed to fulfill these promises. Making aid more transparent allows citizens in countries giving and receiving aid to know what it is funding and where. It is information that is essential for ensuring aid has the most impact. It is critical to make sure aid is not wasted or lost to corruption."  READ MORE

Putting Donors Out of Work

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

This post on development vs aid effectiveness got me thinking a bit about the concept of making oneself redundant, to paraphrase blog author Paul McAdams. "Is everyone involved in development 'working their way out of a job'? Or are some NGOs, CSOs, or donors comfortable in their roles, entrenched in their positions and unwilling to change, even at the risk of eliminating their own work? I suspect the answer is not a simple matter of saying yes or no, but far more nuanced," he writes.

Meaningful Citizen Participation in Decentralization and Local Governance

Sabina Panth's picture

We expect decentralization to bring decision-making governance closer to the people/citizens.  Donors use this rationale to push governments, mainly in developing countries, to devolve central power and authority towards strengthening civic engagement in local governance processes.  But according to Dany Ayida, a governance expert who shared his field experience in Central and West Africa at a recent presentation at the World Bank, meaningful civic participation in a decentralization setting depends on various factors, including:  a) vitality of the public sphere or political environment; b) the culture and political history of the country; and c) the capacity and incentives of both civil society organization and local governments to interact and interface meaningfully with one another.

Simulated Realities, Manipulated Perceptions

Caroline Jaine's picture

Twenty years ago, the French philosopher, sociologist and political commentator, Jean Baudrillard wrote an essay entitled “The Gulf War Did Not Take Place”.  Published in French and British Newspapers (Libération and The Guardian), it attracted huge criticism from people like Christopher Norris, who castigated Baudrillard and other postmodern intellectuals for arguing the Gulf conflict was unreal and essentially fictive. Some even labelled Baudrillard “a theoretical terrorist”.  He was not, however, in denial that lives were lost nor that “more explosives were dropped in the two months of the Gulf War than the entire allied air attacks in World War II”. His central issue was one of interpretation and the presentation of the facts through a media lens – his concern was whether these events could be called a war.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Johanna Martinsson's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA)
Funding Free Expression: Perceptions and Reality in a Changing Landscape

"CIMA is pleased to release a new report, Funding Free Expression: Perceptions and Reality in a Changing Landscape, by Anne Nelson, a veteran journalist, journalism educator, and media consultant. This report, researched in collaboration with the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), explores shifts in funding patterns for international freedom of expression activity. It is based on a survey of 21 major donors representing a broad range of private foundations and and government and multilateral aid agencies in North America and Europe. Among other key findings, the report explains that despite perceptions of shrinking support for freedom of expression, funding appears to have increased in recent years." READ MORE

Impact Blog - USAID
How Free is Your Media? A USAID-Funded Tool Provides Insight

"On May 3, the world celebrated World Press Freedom Day. Reflecting on the day’s events, a few important questions arise about what role the media plays in a community and in a democracy.

First, how does freedom of the press compare to freedom of speech? Not only do journalists need freedom to speak and write without fear of censorship, retribution, or violence, but also they need professional training and access to information in order to produce high-quality work. Furthermore, journalists need to work within an organization that is effectively managed, which preserves editorial independence. People need multiple news sources that offer reliable and objective news, and societies need legal and social norms that promote access to public information." READ MORE

How Scalable Web 2.0 is Changing the World of Disaster Management

Tanya Gupta's picture

Disaster management 2.0: scalable human connections fired by high technology

Scalability, virtual communities and Web 2.0 have changed the world of disaster response.  The most successful and disruptive inventions of modern times owe much of their success to scalability.  Although people always had the ability to read books, it was only with the invention of the printing press that it became possible for millions of people to do so.  Web 2.0 and social media make the ability to connect with people scalable.  Scalable human connections combined with open source software and platforms, and unprecedented computing power, results in human-machine synergy also being scaled up. This human-machine synergy results in disruptive technology innovations.  Such disruptive innovations have most recently been seen in the area of humanitarian support to disaster and conflict affected countries.  USB drives were an innovation that disrupted the market for floppy disks.  Although they are not likely to go the way of the floppy disk, the world of traditional disaster relief organizations with proprietary systems, closed data sets and bureaucracy have been up-ended by the disruptive human-machine synergies of Web 2.0 and crowd-sourced humanitarian volunteer organizations.